Spotlight On: Charlotte Swift

Charlotte Swift, Circle 182, Airlie, reflects on Resilience during these trying times:

“I loved Wycombe, particularly having the opportunity to do so much sport. My 100m record stood until recently! Of course, I loved Lacrosse, although for plenty of my friends that was the worst bit.

“Seven years ago, I was in a car travelling on the motorway when a van pulled out very suddenly in front of us without indicating. It forced us into the central reservation and then to crash into the side barrier. The passenger side, where I was sitting, took the main force of the impact.

“My main injuries were to my lower legs and feet. I lost count of the number of operations I had. The result of it all was that my left foot was too badly damaged to be saved, while my right foot was pieced back together with a significant amount of metal. I spent ten days in intensive care, followed by two months in hospital rehabilitating and learning to walk again. A few months later I was back at work.

“The whole episode was pretty horrid for everyone but, and I know this is going to sound odd, in some ways I consider myself lucky. When we came to a stop on the motorway we were sideways in the middle of the road. It is thanks to a quick-witted lorry driver manoeuvring his vehicle to protect us from oncoming traffic that I’m still alive. Secondly, I was treated in Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth II Hospital, where they look after military personnel injured in conflict zones, so I was in the best possible hands.

“The first friends to visit me in the hospital were three people who were with me in Airlie: Lana Salah, Carlotta Maitland Smith and Dordie (Georgina) Machray. I’ve made other great friends but the ones I made at Wycombe are incredibly special. There’s no way I would have got back on my feet (foot?!!) so quickly without them!

“The stand-out lesson I took from school came from when I badly messed up some exams. Miss Lancaster, the Headmistress at the time, attempted to raise my spirits saying ‘Believe in fate. It’ll all work out in the end.’ Of course, you can influence fate to a degree but I found it incredibly comforting at the time, and it’s a mantra I’ve had ever since.

Coronavirus has gripped the nation and many of our Seniors, parents and pupils have been affected directly. Life has changed beyond recognition for many in a matter of weeks.

“These are incredibly strange and unsettling times, but we are all in this together and it is not forever.

“People often refer to my ‘life-changing’ event. I don’t see it like that. After my accident, I had a choice. I could dwell on what happened or push myself on and look forward. I was back at work within six months and since then I’ve had a baby, done plenty of travelling, returned to playing tennis, snow- and water-skiing and taken up triathlon. Yes, some things are harder now but my life hasn’t changed all that much.

“Being resilient can be hard. We don’t always feel as brave as people think we are, but the only person who decides whether you are going to be happy or not is you. My coping mechanism has very much been to take each day as it comes and, as much as possible, to not overthink the situation. More often than not, things turn out OK in the end.”

Our thanks to Charlotte for sharing her story with us. Please contact communications@wycombeabbey.com with your own reflections and stories.